Saturday, March 21, 2009


Tomorrow's Gospel reading (optional Cycle A readings for RCIA) is the story of the man born blind. I love the Cycle A readings for the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent! The Gospel readings, all from the Gospel of John (the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus) are intended to tell the story of any believer.

In short, in tomorrow's Gospel, after Jesus encounters a man born blind, he "spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes." (NRSV: Jn 9:6) The man washes in the Pool of Siloam, regains his sight, and goes on to speak more and more profound spiritual truths.

Until this week, I'd adverted to the intimacy of Jesus touching the man's eyes, and many other things, but hadn't focused on the mud he'd made with his saliva.

They (whoever 'they' are) say that 'every day is Sunday in the Army', so I've already celebrated Sunday Mass several times this week before Sunday's even here. (A couple of those places won't have Mass again before Easter, unfortunately!)

After one of those Masses, an Iraqi who's working with the Army came up to me to talk. He was very upset about the mud Jesus had made using his saliva. He just couldn't believe that something so disgusting and dirty could be part of the story. The Gospel had clearly unnerved him.

I'd never adverted to the mud in that way before. But then, I'd never been to Iraq before, either, and had never been in a place with disgusting dust like this!

I mentioned to him that as a people who have a sacramental understanding of how God works in our lives -- that God chooses very simple, ordinary things like bread, wine, water, oil to convey profound spiritual truth and grace -- it need not surprise us that Jesus could take something as offensive to our senses as mud made from saliva and dust and use it for healing and blessing.

Perhaps the really good news is that no matter how disgusting and dirty we feel or become, God's healing touch can transform us into agents of healing and grace ourselves, much in the same way as was done with the mud in the story.

Thanks to that man, and like the man in the Gospel, I saw something that I'd never seen before.

Cultural sensibilities certainly are different, aren't they?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ
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